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Remembered Today:

Despatch rider


Martin and Alex
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My mother recently informed me that my grandmother served in France as a despatch rider but that is all the information she can remember. I have tried to find some more info about her war service, but cannot find anything. Her name was Louisa Macnicoll, and she was born in Darlington, County Durham in 1899. Can anyone give me any clues please?

Thanks, Martin.

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As far as I am aware no women served in the armed forces overseas.

Did she work for a newspaper?

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WRAF 1st served in France on the 24th of March 1919. So your grandmother could of have been a dispatch rider with war time service but did not go abroad until 1919.

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Although many women were in France and Flanders from the outset of the war, it was 'officially announced' on February 27th 1917, that women were to be employed to a greater extent with the Armies in France behind the lines. The period of engagement was for 12 months and five categories were listed including, © Motor Transport Service. This gave recognition to the work of women in support of the fighting troops a support that was recognised by many veterans.

Appointment was for women aged 20 -40 and subject to a medical, the period of preparation in England included elementary instruction in hygiene and discipline. There was free conveyance to and from France and a fortnight's leave each year.

This became the Womens Auxiliary Army Corps http://www.nam.ac.uk/exhibitions/online-exhibitions/waacs-war

Shortly after the YMCA started a fund raising appeal to build hostels to accommodate the women.

Many women were employed in France as despatch riders, and although behind the lines often came within the range of artillery fire.

There are some pictures of women despatch riders on this other forum http://hmvf.co.uk/forumvb/showthread.php?15463-WW1-DR-motorcycles/page3

If she served in France during the qualifying period she would have been entitled to campaign medals but it will require some digging e.g.

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C4438464

Like the despatch riders illustrated she may have been in the RFC/RAF who made more extensive use of women drivers/riders, but they went through reorganisation and the medal records for the RAF are I believe quite difficult to find.

Local newspapers may help.

Ken

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  • 1 month later...

Martin the only reference to Louisa that I could find - her birth and possibly 1911 census - was under Louisa McNicoll

Sorry CGM, you're right. That is the correct spelling, I must have had a mental block when I posted.

My mother has been speaking to other members of the family and it seems my grandmother was an ambulance driver, not a despatch rider. Also, we believe she was a WAAC as an elderly relative remembers a photo (now sadly lost) of her in uniform.

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Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC)


The National Archives series WO398 contains records of service in the WAACs. I can't find her listed there.


Some members of the The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry drove ambulances.


(The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry was formed in 1907 so it could provide a link between field hospitals and the front lines. It was given the title ’Yeomanry’ because its members were originally all on horseback.)




On the same page are several other photos of women in the FANY organisation.


I don't suppose the relative can remember a description of the uniform......?


CGM

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I'll have to get mother to ask again. It's not a relative I'm in contact with, although maybe I should rectify that before he departs!!!

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Although many women were in France and Flanders from the outset of the war, it was 'officially announced' on February 27th 1917, that women were to be employed to a greater extent with the Armies in France behind the lines. The period of engagement was for 12 months and five categories were listed including, © Motor Transport Service. This gave recognition to the work of women in support of the fighting troops a support that was recognised by many veterans.

Appointment was for women aged 20 -40 ........................

Ken

It's worth thinking about your grandmother's age at this time. As she was born in Darlington, County Durham in 1899 she would have been rather young to serve abroad for most of the war.

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The combination of her being under-age and having no medal index card at TNA does seem to indicate that Louisa McNicol didn't serve in France during the First World War, though possible she was there after the Armistice - there were a lot of women working there during 1919 and 1920. The other point is that members of the women's army and air force (WAAC/QMAAC/WRAF) drove a lot of things, but not ambulances, so if that's what she did she would probably have been a General Service VAD employed under the Joint War Committee.

Sue

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